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March against Bolsonaro in Brasília, 7 June 2020. Photo: Mídia Ninja

March against Bolsonaro in Brasília, 7 June 2020. Photo: Mídia Ninja

Thousands have taken to the streets in Brazil against Bolsonaro's misgovernment. Orlando Hill introduces an assessment from Leonardo Pericles of Unidade Populare

Bolsonaro supporters have held weekly demonstrations against social distancing measures and in favour of his government in São Paulo and other major capitals. On Sunday, 31 May groups of football fans (torcidas organizadas) held counter-demonstrations attacking Bolsonaro’s disastrous policies in regards to the pandemic and showing solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement. Their main banner was Fora Bolsonaro (Bolsonaro Out). 

Torcidas organizadas are grass-root movements made up mainly of working class football fans. They travel around the country supporting their teams during matches. Historically, they have voiced left-wing political views and taken part in campaigns such as the direct presidential elections (Diretas Já) and amnesty. 

These recent street demonstrations have sparked controversies among the left. Some argue that in times of pandemic we should not be protesting in the streets. Furthermore we should not provoke the armed forces and right-wing groups. As Leonardo Péricles points out in the article below, “practically all political parties are rejecting or boycotting these acts, even if covertly”. As the national president of Unidade Popular he argues that the streets are the best terrain to defeat Bolsonaro and the threat of fascism. As he stated in a recent video post “we are facing a pandemic without a government… being thrown into death’s way.” The working class (who are mostly black) have to take to the streets in order to ensure that measures are taken to lessen the number of deaths. “We can be exploited while working in supermarkets, shopping malls, as maids and in hospitals without PPE, but we cannot go to demonstrations with the right protection to defeat this government which is the major obstacle in guaranteeing a quarantine.” 

We need to take to the streets in Brazil!

This theme, unfortunately, is not new within the left, especially among those who prioritise institutional change. In the 1960s, the threat of a coup was underestimated on the grounds that it just was not possible. We were told that the armed forces would respect the constitution. They were loyal to democracy and the president. The result was 21 years of a long and dark night of terror. Thousands were tortured and murdered. Millions were made unemployed. We had one of the most corrupt governments in history. And, as if that wasn’t enough, our people were silenced and prevented from participating in politics, speaking up and voicing their opinion.

The same occurred between 2016 and 2018. A large part of the left underestimated Bolsonaro and his ideas. His speeches were taken as a joke. Elections and institutional settlements were prioritised instead of popular struggles.

Today, the underestimation continues. We see, among some sectors, the discourse that there is no probability of a coup and criticism of street demonstrations. But, is there or isn’t there a possibility of a military coup?

As long as capitalism exists - with its cyclical crises - the possibility of a terrorist dictatorship of capital is perfectly possible. In other words, the possibility of a dictatorship is real in any capitalist state. As this statement may seem very broad and since it is not my intention in this text to explain the world situation, I will focus on the present situation in Brazil.

In Brazil, we have a republic founded as a result of a military coup carried out by former slaveholders who, for convenience, became “republicans” overnight, to prevent the majority of the black people from achieving their own independence and founding their own republic. This coup was orchestrated, with the aid of the armed forces, by highly racist, sexist, violent and authoritarian ruling classes, in sum, anti-people. The ruling classes continuously imposed their will throughout the 20th century. They carried out two other direct coups, in the 1930s and 1960s, not to mention the veiled coups, performed behind the scenes.

In the 1980s, the military dictatorship was defeated, but elements of it remained in the structures of the State and its apparatuses were not dismantled. Brazil is the only country in South America that never punished the generals and other agents who, in the name of the State, tortured and murdered thousands of people. Even the most progressive governments, although making important advances in some fields, did not displace these ruling classes from power. They even strengthened them to a certain extent, as they maintained the same economic policy, which enabled bankers and big capital to make fabulous profits.

Returning to the theme of the coup, these same sectors of the ruling classes, with a majority in parliament, masterminded an institutional coup in 2016. A coup was not mainly against president Dilma Rousseff (PT), but against the rights of the working class. Since then, there have been more attacks on workers’ rights with the labour and pension reforms and the 20-year freeze on spending on education and health. Attacks initiated by the coup-plotter and corrupt president Michel Temer and were completed by Bolsonaro.

The second issue is that Brazil lacks the nucleus of a left that has at its center the confrontation with these ruling classes. A left that has sufficient training and firmness not to sell itself, but to put the popular interests, the interests of the working class, ahead of any other demand. To build that nucleus, we need to mobilize the people and gradually win hearts and minds so that in the next stage we will be able to mobilize millions.

We, on the left, unlike the fascists and the extreme right, defend life and thus continue to defend social isolation. Therefore, those in risk groups should not take to the streets. The fight against Covid-19 continues and the pandemic must also be defeated. But the main obstacle to defeating the coronavirus is Bolsonaro’s government, and the generals and bankers who support it.

Brazil is not broken. We have a budget and sufficient wealth to ensure that the vast majority of our people are quarantined; that the key sectors of society carry on functioning, and that there is no shortage of supplies. Instead of giving R$1.2 trillion to bankers and continuing to pay the criminal public debt, as Bolsonaro has done, these astonishing resources should be used in favour of our people. For this reason, the banner “Fora Bolsonaro” (Bolsonaro Out) must be present in every demonstration.

We are in a moment that only by taking to the streets will we be able to prevent these coup plotters from acting. Last Sunday's (31 May) street demonstrations made them retreat. Despite the lie told by the fascists, the actions of the left have had more strength and have been much greater than those of the extreme right. The streets belong to the social movement and not to the fascists. In the streets we fight better than they do. It is in this terrain that we will defeat them.

Finally, at the moment, anti-fascist football supporters are demonstrating against Bolsonaro and in support of Black Lives Matter - and practically all political parties are rejecting or boycotting these acts, even if covertly. We in Unidade Popular (UP), are ready to take to the streets, support these acts and help organize them. We are on the right side of history, on the side of democracy, justice, the rights of the working class and the people and we have no reason to be defensive in doing so. But we have to be careful. We cannot go to the streets in any which way. Besides being cautious with Covid-19 by wearing masks, gloves, and carrying hand sanitisers, we must also take care of the safety of each and every one.

Whoever takes to the streets,must also remember that we need to be vigilant so as not fall into any provocation. The Military Police will use so-called P2s (infiltrated provocateurs) to cause confusion. Fascists will provoke demonstrators so that we fight back and, with that, justify police repression. Let us also remember the need to reinforce the unity of the movement, the social movements, the parties committed to the struggle, the football fans of the most varied torcidas organizadas, the democrats, all those who defend another world where popular democracy is possible!

In this sense, let us not forget the important example of the black people in the United States, who, even under Covid-19, have faced racism and state repression on the streets and who are finding the best ways to fight, by fighting! Here, in this country of false racial democracy, we also have many reasons for triggering a great anti-racist struggle, connected to other struggles. They are common goals! It is impossible to be consistent in the fight against racism and not to fight against the very capitalist system that feeds it, and vice versa.

The way is to defeat fascism and Bolsonaro’s government and forge ahead to guarantee the rights of the working class, overcome the pandemic and put the people in power in this country! Fora Bolsonaro! For a People's Government! Black lives matter! Dictatorship never again! Venceremos! We will win!


Orlando Hill

Orlando Hill

Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.

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